SEC East Breakdown
The East Beasts
By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
We are going to take a look and preview the SEC East for the upcoming 2022 season.
#1 Georgia: The Bulldogs finally beat Alabama in the National Championship to win their first national championship since 1980.
They only return 10 starters but they are expected to reload. The defense was historically good but they lost players like linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine.
Stetson Bennett returns under center and they return three starting offensive linemen. They have two very talented tight ends, Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert.
#2 Tennessee: Head coach Josh Heupel is entering his second season in Knoxville and he has the program going in the right direction. The Volunteers averaged 39.3 points a game. They also led the SEC in plays of 40-plus yards (23) after only having three in 2020.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker is entering his senior year after having a breakout year in 2021. He passed for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 620 yards and 5 scores.
They also return four starting O-linemen. The defense allowed over 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points a game in SEC play last season.
#3 Kentucky: It’s a toss-up between the Wildcats and Tennessee for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen helped them average 32.3 ppg last year. Coen left to take a job on the LA Rams staff. Mark Stoops hired Rich Scangarello from the 49ers to replace him.
QB Will Levis is back and they have a good running back stable led by Chris Rodriguez Jr.
Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, 21.7 ppg allowed. They have holes to fill up front and in the secondary. The linebacker unit is talented.
#4 Florida: The Gators are led by first year head coach Billy Napier. They finished 6-7 in 2021 and they should improve this season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson played in eight games last year and averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards and 9 total scores.
Florida should have a solid running back core that includes Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson and former top recruit Demarkcus Bowman. The Gators finished 10th in the SEC against the run and only had 20 sacks in conference play.
#5 South Carolina: The Gamecocks could be one of the most exciting teams to watch. They have several transfer players including quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and receivers Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) to add to a receiving corps already featuring Josh Vann (15.8 yards per catch) and Dakereon Joyner.
They return all five starting O-linemen but that’s still an area of concern. They only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2021. The defense allowed 175 rushing yards a game.
#6 Missouri: The Tigers have a bad defense and inconsistent quarterback play. The defense allowed 6.7 yards per play, 36 points a game and more than 200 rushing yards a contest in SEC action last fall.
Offensively, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points and 5.2 yards per play in SEC games last season.
Ends Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat lead the way up front, while cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and safety Martez Manuel are two building blocks for new coordinator Blake Baker.
#7 Vanderbilt: Are we surprised to see the Commodores here?
Mike Wright and Ken Seals are competing for the QB 1 job.
Vanderbilt ranked 13th in the SEC against the run, last in pass efficiency defense, and surrendered an unpleasant combination of 6.8 yards per play and 35.6 points per game.